US SPECIAL/SHOCKING DEATH
Thedeathof Lyvita Gomesafterahungerstrikein the Lake County Jail in Illinois has stunned America. Gomes, 52, who lived alone, left little details about her when she died at the Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan, January 3.
After days, the authorities and activists located her family
in Mumbai, where her 94-year-old father is yet to learn
about her death.
Her death was the end of a bizarre saga that began with a
failure to answer a jury summons and ended with her succumbing to dehydration and malnutrition, Lake County
Coroner Artis Yancey told the Daily Herald. Yancey did not
return calls from India Abroad.
A funeral was scheduled for early February, possibly
February 1, according to Alfredo Miranda of the Miranda
Funeral Services in Waukegan, Illinois, who is helping with
the funeral arrangements. The body was with the Lake
County Coroner’s custody. Since Gomes’s brother
Oydsteven could not travel to the US for the funeral, he
requested a friend, Rodney Fernandez from Britain, to
attend the funeral for the family.
Gomes was not married, according to her brother, who
spoke to India Abroad in Mumbai. She lost her job with
Delta Airlines five years ago. Later, she worked in at a
Chicago airport as a manual laborer, according to Chief
Wayne Hunter, the Lake County sheriff’s head of administration.
“My heart is broken,” Hunter said. “A beautiful woman is
brought to jail on a minor offense. She declined to eat. In
truth we cannot force anyone in jail to eat.”
Gomes, who had not eaten for an estimated 15 days, died
of dehydration and malnutrition.
“We know very little about her. We don’t know how long
she was here. But the driving license was four years old,”
He was not sure about her immigration status. Since she
held a valid driving license, he though she was staying
legally because it is difficult to get a license without legal
Gomes’s last address was reportedly the Homestead
Studio Suites Hotel, 675 Woodlands Parkway, Vernon Hills.
Only United States citizens are allowed as jury members,
but the courts will send questionnaires to anyone, legal and
illegal. If they do not reply to it, it could result in arrest and
legal action. In October, the sheriff’s deputies went to the
Vernon Hills address to serve Gomes with a civil warrant
for failure to appear for jury duty. During the service of the
warrant, she resisted, refusing to place her arms behind her
back, reports said. It became another crime. They arrested
her for resisting arrest and she was sent to the Lake County
Jail. There, it was discovered that the Immigration and
Customs Enforcement had placed a hold on her. Those in
jail who are born outside of the US need to undergo a brief
interview with the ICE to ascertain their status, according
to authorities. Since she was not cooperative, the ICE
might have placed a hold.
She was then turned over to the immigration authorities.
From there, the trail becomes somewhat murky, officials
told the Daily Herald. ‘Once you’re released into ICE cus-
tody, it’s kind of like you’re in a black hole. ICE does not
report back to us what happens,’ Hunter told the Herald.
‘We can only assume, because she was back out on the
street, that one of two things happened: Either ICE decid-
ed they were not interested in her. Or the (federal) magis-
trate gave her a court date and told her to report back.’
Either way, she was again arrested because of her failure
to appear in court on the resisting-arrest charge. December
12, 2011, the sheriff’s deputies arrived at the Vernon Hills
address. She was not there. Two days later, the Vernon Hills
police located Gomes and arrested her for failure to appear.
She was remanded to the county jail, where she began her
hunger strike, possibly December 15.
Why was Lyvita summoned for jury duty when she wasn’t eligi- ble to serve? Why was her condi-
tion — depression or otherwise — not
detected earlier? What forced her to go
into starvation? Why was her health — of
dehydration or starvation — not noticed
in time to prevent her death?
Lyvita worked for Delta Airlines in
Mumbai for over 10 years after which
she was transferred to the Atlanta office.
She was made redundant by Delta five
years ago. This actually came as a very
big shock to my sister, as her job profile
had been fast-tracked by senior man-
agement. I feared that she might have
Grief, and unanswered questions
been depressed as a result of the redun-
dancy. I believe that her employer might
not have handled this matter well in
counseling her or help her to return to
India. Having done her master’s in orga-
nizational development, she moved on
to work on assignments in Chicago. She
was always an achiever. I cannot give
you any insight into her health or men-
tal condition at the time of her arrest, as
she did not confide such matters to the
family. She seemed happy when she
called the family on birthdays and on
every Christmas, Easter and New Year.
She last spoke to her dad, aged 94,
December 14, 2011.
Oydsteven Gomes, Lyvita’s brother, spoke
to Toral Varia Deshpande in Mumbai